Carolina: Cruising Past 70

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Remembering Sacredness in Auckland

Mt. Eden, Te Ipu Kai, The Food Bowl

Imagine a time when many cracks of Mother Earth spewed hot molten lava on the land of tribes of terrified native peoples.  Those volcanoes were not only feared; they were revered. Now imagine modern cities having sprouted around their craters. Such is New Zealand's capital, Auckland, a city dotted with many dormant volcanic cones that have turned green. Some are marked with monuments; some built upon with magnificent edifices. Vehicles are already prohibited from driving up Mt. Eden, Auckland’s highest cone called Te Ipu Kai, the Food Bowl. But One Tree Hill, the second highest, is still drivable up to the top. But walking on the craters is a strict no-no. They are tapu, sacred grounds.

One Tree Hill

It was in this wondrous city that I came face-to-face with crippling fear.  I was happily snapping away photos of street art and curious buildings in downtown Auckland. We had just left St. Patrick’s Cathedral when Bill suddenly crumbled to the ground.

Harbor Bridge

Until that moment, I thought the day was going fine. After Mt. Eden and One Tree Hill, we went to Harbor Bridge. The “coathanger,” as it is fondly called, has become an embarrassment as a poor copy of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, I was told. I don’t know why really. It has its own charm. Walking many many steps to get the best shots, I did not know that Bill's fatigue was starting to set in.

Because it is just a short ride from the bridge, I convinced Bill to squeeze in a visit to MJ. Savage Memorial Park. Overlooking the great twin harbors of Waitemata and Manukau, you can see the islands of iconic Rangitoto and tropical Waiheke from the Park which was built in honor of the beloved Labor Prime Minister who founded New Zealand’s welfare state. He is beloved, having paved the way for the country to be the #10 most livable in the world.

What we thought would be a bit of rest turned out to be more walking up and around Auckland Domain, the city’s oldest and largest park. There the Auckland Museum is built upon the crater of another extinct volcano!  To get a good photo of the beautiful building, we had to go up and around. Feeling a bit tired, we proceeded down the hill where the Winter Garden, an oasis in the drab of winter, had two barrel-vaulted glasshouses of tropical and temperate plants. After an hour of photography, the aroma of freshly baked goods led us to the Cafe where scones with jellied fruits and clotted cream became our mid-day snack. The divine flavors of England we had sorely missed once again delighted us. But it was rest which we needed more.

Auckland Museum

Winter Garden
We were in Auckland for just two days, to get an extension of my Australian tourist visa because only 90 days are given per entry. The next day was already committed to touring Waiheke Island with a friend. Trying to get the most out of our only day in the city, we took the bus to the central business district and alighted at the Aotea Square, the large, paved public area for Auckland events of up to 20,000 people. An expressionist style traditional Maori archway at the Queen Street entrance gives the Square a sacred feel. From there we walked past the tallest structure of the city, not having the time or energy to explore the Sky Tower on the way to St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Aotea Square

It was just a few blocks but the roads had a gradual but steady incline.At the top of the hill, we came upon a neighborhood project, Griffiths Garden. I love it when city folks do this. No wonder Auckland is ranked #7 among the most livable cities in the world. I got so engrossed capturing the many images my eyes were feasting on, collecting candidates for the next Photo Show of the Viewpoint Golf Resort in Arizona where we live. I didn’t notice that Bill had to find a bench to sit on. When we got to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, he still walked the halls to admire its high ceiling, the wide nave, and large stained glass windows. We also learned the church had gone from wood to stone to brick.

Griffiths Gardens

But, as soon as we left St. Patrick's, Bill suddenly crumbled to the ground. As the other passers-by rushed to help us, I cried profusely and unashamedly for what seemed like an eternity. It was just a few seconds but I literally froze. I couldn't help but blame myself for squeezing nine landmarks in a day. Such pace of travel should only be for the young, especially after our a red-eye flight from Melbourne the night before. When Bill came to, he did not think of himself, as usual. Hewas so sorry to have caused me such a scare. He promised to take better care of his body.After all, it is a sacred temple that should be preserved and celebrated like Auckland's sacred landmarks. But it is I who has to listen to this wake-up call. The way I like to travel will have to change.


St. Patrick's Cathedral